Most days Jessica and her friends would go to Dandenong Plaza to hang out and drink. One afternoon she stopped by the YSAS office and sat down with Maleth Ouk, a youth worker who was setting up a social enterprise called Reval Ink teaching young people to design and print their own T-shirts.
As they chatted, Jessica absentmindedly scribbled an abstract image – a starburst of intertwining ribbons – on a sheet of paper. It took her five minutes, and then she left to go to the plaza.
Maleth kept that piece of paper and scanned it into a shiny new Mac computer purchased for the T-shirt design enterprise. A few months later Jessica stopped by again, also en route to the plaza. Maleth showed her the scanned drawing and spent ten minutes teaching her how to use Photoshop to colour in the outlines.
Jessica had only dropped by to say hello, but she became so engrossed in the work that she stayed for about four hours. Meanwhile, her friends were waiting impatiently outside, and every thirty minutes or so they’d come in and ask when they were going to the plaza to drink. “You guys go,” she said. “I’m going to stay here and finish this.”
“That day was a win for myself and Jessica because she actually chose not to go out and have a drink, versus sitting here on a computer with her head down, learning some skills and making some art,” says Maleth. What she produced during that marathon design session was later hung on the wall downstairs, where it was spotted by a member of youth organisation Living Music, which paid Jessica to use the image on the cover of a CD.
“A lot of the kids we work with don’t even make it through primary school,” says Maleth. “Anything like that where they’re engaged and can concentrate for that long is a really big win.”